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Roads may take historical turn

Oldsmar may rename a street for its founder and another for Martin Luther King Jr.

By ED QUIOCO

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 14, 2000


OLDSMAR -- City founder Ransom Eli Olds and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. led dramatically different lives, but they soon could have at least one thing in common.

Both men could have roads in Oldsmar named after them, thanks to two proposals winding their way through the city's review process.

City Council members have suggested naming Oldsmar's piece of State Road 580 after Olds -- a turn-of-the-century auto tycoon and the city's founder -- and renaming Bayview Boulevard north of Tampa Road after King, the civil-rights leader.

City department heads will review the suggestions Monday and send their comments to City Council members, who will have the final say.

Oldsmar resident and Planning Board member Milton Pasco said Tuesday that dedicating a street after King means more than just a simple name change. It represents the struggle blacks have endured over the years, he said.

"It's important because it symbolizes where we came from," said Pasco, who is black and lives on the section of Bayview that could be renamed. "We have come a long way and we still have a long way to go. It would be like we were moving in the right direction."

Council member Ed Richards suggested renaming all of Bayview Boulevard after King during a City Council meeting last week after the council approved naming S.R. 580 after Olds, the city founder. Council member Brian Michaels had suggested the new name for S.R. 580.

Richards noted that about a dozen black residents last month asked the council to rename a street for King but got little response.

"When a council member came up and said "Let's rename it to R.E. Olds Boulevard,' the whole council wanted to jump on the bandwagon, but when residents came up (to suggest naming a road after Martin Luther King Jr.) it looked like the council wanted to back off," Richards said. "Everyone should be equal in my eyes."

Mayor Jeff Sandler said at the meeting last week that the two proposals were different. One involved giving a local name to the relatively new S.R. 580 and the other was a request to change the name of one of the first streets built in the city. Sandler suggested altering Richards' suggestion so that only the portion of Bayview Boulevard north of Tampa Road would be changed instead of the entire road.

"When you change Bayview Boulevard to any other name, you are changing the names of one of the original streets that were platted in the city," Sandler said at the meeting last week. "I'm not changing original street names in the city."

Pasco said only changing the northern portion of Bayview, which runs through a predominantly black neighborhood, is not enough. Pasco and his brother James showed up at the meeting last month and complained that the city was ignoring its black residents and discriminating against black job applicants and pointed to a lack of a street honoring the civil-rights leader as evidence.

"If they will just change Bayview north of Tampa Road, that speaks volumes about where we are," Pasco said. "If that's what they want to do, then equality and balance is still not out there. If you will step out, then step out all the way. Don't go halfway."

Pasco and his family grew up in Oldsmar. James Pasco is embroiled in a bitter code-enforcement lawsuit against the city over how he keeps his property. City officials have said the Pascos brought up claims of discrimination only because of the city's code-enforcement suit against him.

"I have no doubt that a lot of what the Pascos have said, they truly believe," Sandler said. "That's fine. But I don't see it the way they see it."

Michaels said the idea of naming S.R. 580 for the city founder came to him while he was campaigning for the March election. He said S.R. 580 always will have that designation and giving it a local name would recognize the city's past.

"State Road 580 will always be State Road 580," Michaels said. "Naming it after R.E. Olds basically adds name recognition and history to the road."

The portion of S.R. 580 that slices through the city was opened in October 1997 after about two years of construction. The state Department of Transportation built the four-lane road to replace the section of S.R. 580 that was two-lane, residential St. Petersburg Drive.

Oldsmar community development director Nick Staszko said giving S.R. 580 a name would give the road a local flavor.

"It gives it a personality that denotes something important," he said. "I guess you do it to humanize it."

- Ed Quioco can be reached at (727) 445-4183 or at quioco@sptimes.com.

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